Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Access to Information Act to be overhauled

The Federal Justice Minister today issued the following press release, announcing changes to the Access to Information Act:

Justice Minister Presents Comprehensive Framework for Reform of the Access to Information Act:

"OTTAWA , April 5, 2005 - The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Irwin Cotler, today presented a comprehensive framework for Access to Information reform to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The discussion paper outlines the Government's views on access reform issues for the Committee's consideration before the Government proceeds with proposed amendments.

"The Government of Canada is committed to reforming the Access to Information Act (ATIA) so that it meets the needs of Canadians and further strengthens the integrity, accountability and transparency of government operations," said Minister Cotler. "Our reform initiative is organized around two basic principles: first, that freedom of information is a cornerstone of a culture of democratic governance, and second, that the Access to Information Act is a pillar of democracy which the Supreme Court of Canada has described as quasi-constitutional in nature."

The comprehensive framework for reform set forth in the Discussion Paper has been guided and inspired by the work done by the ATI Review Task Force, by proposals put forth in Private Members' Bills, and by proposals made by others. Highlights include:

  • Expanding coverage under the ATIA to more Crown Corporations and other entities, such as Alternate Dispute Delivery Organizations.
  • Proposing the possible extension of the ATIA to the Office of the following Agents of Parliament: the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Auditor General.
  • Modernizing exclusions and exemptions relating to such matters as Cabinet confidences, among others.
  • Updating current Access to Information processes such as fee collection and t ime limits for processing Access to Information and Privacy requests.
  • Introducing new administrative reforms such as providing specific training in information management and disclosure of information to executives and public servants, and upgrading tools to assist institutions in processing access requests or to track timelines.

"Considering the magnitude and impact of the ATI Act, we must come together as Parliamentarians to discuss it, we must hear from expert witnesses, we must consider all elements, all perspectives, all people," said Minister Cotler. "We all share a common goal: to have the most comprehensive and workable access legislation possible. The Committee plays an invaluable role in the reform of legislation, and its input is essential – indeed, a prerequisite before tabling amendments"

While the Government of Canada agrees in principle with many of the proposals made in the Private Members' Bills and recommendations contained in the Task Force report, the proposed changes are complex and require further study and Parliamentary and public input. The comprehensive framework provides the vehicle for launching this dialogue.

For more information about the Access to Information Act, visit:


To read the discussion paper "A comprehensive Framework for Access to Information Reform: A Discussion Paper, April 2005," visit: http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/dept/pub/ati/index.html

To read the "Report of the Access to Information Review Task Force ," visit: http://www.atirtf-geai.gc.ca/report2002-e.html



Denise Rudnicki

Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice
(613) 992-4621

Media Relations Office
Department of Justice Canada
(613) 957-4207"

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